It was predictable that the New York courtroom on Monday would morph into a match between New York Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron and former president Donald Trump.
This trial is a result of New York state bringing a civil fraud trial accusing the Trump Organization of inflating its financial statements for banks and other institutions.
The outcomes of this bench trial will determine how much the Trump Organization will pay in fines if any, the disposition of some of its properties in New York, the management of the company, and whether the Trumps can do business in New York.
Judge Engoron pre-determined that the state found fraud and announced that before the attorneys’ opening statements.
Trump was cautioned by the judge to keep his answers concise, reminding him and the courtroom that “this is not a political rally.”
“We don’t have time to waste. We have one day to do this,” Judge Arthur Engoron stated at one point.
“In addition to the answers being non-responsive, they’re repetitive,” he said at another point, which is highly unusual for a judge to say in court.
At one point, the judge turned to one of Trump’s lawyers, Christopher Kise, who has had his own clashes with the judge.
“Mr. Kise, can you control your client? This is not a political rally. This is a courtroom,” Engoron instructed Kise.
“I do not want to hear everything this witness has to say. He has a lot to say that has nothing to do with the case or the questions,” the judge added.
Trump downplayed his direct involvement in preparing the financial statements.
“All I did was authorize and tell people to give whatever is necessary for the accountants to do the statements,” he said. As for results, “I would look at them, I would see them, and maybe on some occasions, I would have some suggestions.”
Trump downplayed the significance of the financial statements, which were forwarded to the banks.
“Banks didn’t find them very relevant, and they had a disclaimer clause -- you would call it a worthless statement clause,” he emphasized. “I probably know banks as well as anybody … I know what they look at. They look at the deal, they look at the location.”
Trump objected to his 2014 financial statements being used against him in this case.
“First of all it’s so long ago, it’s well beyond the statute of limitations,” Trump said before turning to the judge and saying the judge allowed state lawyers to pursue these claims “because he always rules against me,” referring to Judge Engoron.
“You can attack me in whichever way you want but please answer the questions,” the judge responded.
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